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Article

Brandon Smith

Creation of new connections inside sound-generating electronic devices to provide sounds unintended by their original designers. A wide range of effects can be achieved, and extra tactile controls such as potentiometers, switches, photocells, and body contacts can be added to control the new effects, the most frequent modification being for pitch control. Often various ‘bends’ are found accidentally by arbitrarily connecting two different points on the circuit board. Circuit bending has attracted considerable attention among persons interested in experimental electronic music and synthesizers, and it can be achieved with limited electronics knowledge and construction skills. Because circuit bending calls for unauthorised, sometimes radical changes to the circuitry’s original pathways, it risks damaging or destroying the device being modified. Toys are often exploited for circuit bending because of their ubiquity and low cost and the small risk of electrical shock from their low voltage. Battery-operated toys such as the Texas Instruments Speak n’ Spell and the Casio SK-1 have latent sonic potential and are prime targets for tinkerers seeking such sounds inexpensively or at no cost and because they tend to ‘glitch’ easily, spewing out fragmented bits of digital speech and strange sounds. Examples of circuit-bent creations include electronic keyboards, sound modules, drum machines, effects pedals, and karaoke machines. Video bending uses these same methods to modify video-game consoles to make abstract visual patterns in addition to novel sounds....

Article

Hugh Davies

revised by Anne Beetem Acker

[Elektronmusikstudion] (Swed.: ‘electronic music studio’)

The Swedish national centre for electronic music and sound art, in Stockholm. It was preceded by a smaller studio run by the Worker’s Society of Education from 1960. EMS was established by Swedish Radio in 1964 under music director and composer Karl Birger Blomdahl (1916–68), who hired the composer and performer Knut Wiggen (b 1927) to take charge of creating the studios. In 1965 an old radio theatre studio called the klangverstan (‘sound workshop’) opened for composers. Construction of a new facility was begun, but after Blomdahl’s death EMS became independent, funded only in small part by Swedish Radio, and otherwise by Fylkingen (a society for experimental music and arts) and the Swedish Royal Academy of Music.

Wiggen envisioned EMS as both a place to produce electro-acoustic music and a research institution that would give the composer ‘the possibility of describing sounds in psychological terms’. The studio was equipped accordingly. The sound sculpture ...

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

[envelope shaper]

Electronic circuit that controls a voltage-controlled amplifier (VCA), voltage-controlled filter (VCF), or voltage-controlled oscillator (VCO), allowing the output behaviour (or envelope, as the output curve is known in electronics) of a sound signal to be shaped over time. When controlling a VCA the envelope generator shapes volume; controlling a VCF affects timbre, while mixing signals to a VCA and VCO produces a frequency contour. The most common envelope shaper, the ADSR (Attack, Decay, Sustain, Release), generates a four-segment signal that allows for setting the rise and fall rates for the attack, decay, and release, and setting a level for the sustain. Some ADSRs allow each segment to be scaled proportionately to an input signal such as key velocity. Advanced envelope generators, such as a UEG (universal event generator), can have hundreds of segments for which time and slope can be set, and provide a means to repeat, skip, or abbreviate a segment....

Article

GAME  

Hugh Davies, Annette Vande Gorne and Anne Beetem Acker

[Générateur automatique de musique électronique] (Fr.: ‘automatic electronic music generator’)

Composition machine developed by the Belgian composer Léo Küpper (b Nidrum, 16 April 1935) in Brussels between 1968 and 1978. Küpper had begun experimenting with electronic music in 1959 while a student at Liège University, using two Brüel & Kjaer oscillators and a tape recorder. In 1962 he began work in Brussels at APELAC, the first Belgian electronic music studio, and joined the musical sound-effects department of the RTBF. The GAME system formed the basis of Küpper’s electronic music studio in Brussels, the Studio de Recherches et de Structurations Electroniques Auditives, which he founded in 1967. The first version of the GAME, completed in 1971, was used in concerts and installations. It consisted of 60 separate modules, using a combination of analogue and digital techniques, which could be freely selected and combined. The modules were programmed in an upright console approximately 4 × 2 metres by making a large number of patchcord interconnections, so that the surface of the console was festooned with cables. Most of the controls operated during a performance were placed in front of the console....

Article

Jason Freeman and Frank Clark

[GTCMT]

Interdisciplinary research centre for music, computing, engineering, design, and business, founded in 2008 at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. The Center focuses on the development and deployment of transformative musical technologies, and emphasizes the impact of music technology research on scholarship, industry, and culture. In 2012 the Center had 23 faculty members.

Numerous projects have involved the development of new musical instruments, particularly mobile instruments for smartphone devices; robotic musicians that can listen to and collaborate with human performers; and novel instruments and interfaces designed for health and educational applications. GTCMT research projects have received many grants, mostly from the National Science Foundation. Two spinoff companies, ZooZ Mobile and Khush, have commercialized research results to produce mobile music creation applications.

Though the GTCMT does not have a direct educational mission, it collaborates closely with the university’s School of Music, and several of its faculty members teach courses and advise students in Georgia Tech’s Master of Science and Ph.D. programmes in music technology. The GTCMT presents concerts featuring new instruments, and related events, notably the annual Margaret Guthman Musical Instrument Competition, co-sponsored since ...

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

Unique MIDI synthesizer controlled by a gamma-ray spectrometer designed and built by Jerry Chamkis (b Los Angeles, CA, 1942). He studied physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, but disillusioned by the emphasis on military applications, he left and became chief engineer at a radio station in Houston, Texas. In 1975, he formed AERCO (Acme Electric Robot Company), where he initially produced peripheral devices and memory expansions for small computers and then moved on to computer-controlled hot wire cutting systems, broadcast equipment, and microphone preamplifiers. Since about 2000 he has concentrated on various art projects such as the Kosmophone.

The gamma-ray spectrometer used for the Kosmophone operates at 3–7 million electron volts, the energy coming primarily from very high-energy cosmic radiation. Although mostly stopped by the atmosphere, gamma rays produce secondary energy emissions that the Kosmophone detects, sending the information to a synthesizer MIDI control port. The radiation pulses are processed and digitized to 12 bits, 7 of which are sent as the MIDI pitch value and 4 as the MIDI velocity value. The first Kosmophone was built from standard nuclear instrumentation modules and custom circuit boards. The second version is a self-contained portable unit with an integral detector, a self-contained nuclear analyser, an Alesis QSR synthesizer, and a 100-watt-per-channel amplifier. It was first shown publicly at the Electricity and Me show at Gallery Lombardi in Austin, Texas, in ...

Article

Anne Beetem Acker

(b Bermuda, July 10, 1957). American audio engineer, musician, and owner of Keith McMillen Instruments, based in Berkeley, California. He received his BS in acoustics from the University of Illinois, where he also studied classical guitar and composition. In 1979 he founded Zeta Music, which designed and sold electric and electronic violins and basses. In 1992 he organized a research laboratory for Gibson Guitars. He developed a computerized composition, notation, and performance system, and also helped devise ZIPI, a MIDI-like music control language. At the Center for New Music and Audio Technologies at the University of California, Berkeley, he researched audio networking, synthesizers, and string instruments. In 1996 he became director of engineering for the audio processing and distributed music networks division of Harmon Kardon. In 1999 he founded Octiv, Inc., an Internet audio signal processing company, which produced the ‘Volume Logic’ plug-in for iTunes that allows digital audio remastering to improve the sound produced by computers and MP3 players....

Article

Alexander Bonus

[iPhone, Android, smartphone]

Portable electronic communication device. These have become robust platforms for digital audio production, composition, and music performance since the beginning of the 21st century. Recent compositions for mobile-phone ringtones might represent an emerging music genre. Since 2008, many commercial apps have transformed mobile devices into miniature synthesizers. Popular virtual-instrument programs such as Ocarina (2008) by the Smule Corporation and Band (2008) by MooCowMusic harness the phone’s numerous interfaces in various ways. Multi-point touch screens offer players the ability to manipulate graphical fingerholes, fretboards, drum pads, and keyboards, thus approximating the playing experience of acoustic wind, string, percussion, and keyboard instruments. Beyond its use in voice recording and transmission, a device’s microphone can register breath intensity, enabling users to initiate tones and alter dynamics as though playing a wind instrument.

Some mobile sound-production programs feature real-time voice manipulation, including auto-tune or pitch correction. Additional levels of musical functionality can be mapped to a phone’s accelerometer (an internal speed and direction detector). When the device is swung, shaken, or tilted, the accelerometer can trigger alterations in timbre, vibrato, pitch, and other variables. More advanced uses have been proposed. For example, a phone’s camera, acting as a real-time motion sensor, could affect many aspects of sound synthesis and sequencing; and the GPS (global positioning system) indicator has the potential to take location markers from other phones across the planet and turn those data into sonic information....

Article

Mandy-Suzanne Wong

(b Madison, WI, 1979). American sound artist, installation artist, electronic composer, laptop performer, and visual artist. Based in Los Angeles, he has collaborated with Will Long, Mise_En_Scene, and Marc Manning, among others, and exhibited and performed throughout the United States and Europe. He owns and operates Dragon’s Eye Recordings, which promotes promising but under-recognized sound artists and composers.

Novak’s installations, along with his electronic compositions and performances, typically consist of quiet, subtly shifting textures. These sounds are often field recordings of environmental sounds, digitally transformed into exquisite drones or slow-moving melodies, as in +ROOM (2009). Novak’s work is often associated with Ambient music, demonstrating the fluid, and indeed questionable, nature of the boundary between music and field recording or, generally speaking, between music and sound art. However, unlike ambient music, Novak’s pieces are often programmatic. The goal, in many of his works, is to transform documentation into narrative by digitally altering prerecorded sounds and images. His alterations often consist not of fleshing out sounds and images by adding to their characteristics, but of digitally erasing their distinguishing features. He may obliterate the movement that we typically see in video, reducing it to a static expanse of color. Similarly, he alters environmental sounds beyond recognition into contemplative textures....

Article

Electronic circuit that generates a single periodic waveform. Linear or harmonic oscillators produce a sinusoidal output, while non-linear or relaxation oscillators produce a non-sinusoidal output such as a sawtooth, square, or triangle wave. Audio oscillators produce frequencies in the audio range (16 Hz to 20 kHz), RF oscillators in the radio frequency range (100 kHz to 100 GHz), and LFO (low frequency oscillators) produce frequencies below 20 Hz. For the independent use of oscillators as musical instruments, ...